New Year’s Eve Dance Lessons

There’s a paradox I’ve discovered that few people recognize or understand. Fat guys and Filipinos are great dancers.

It’s true. Not that any of you might notice. Being in the company of dancing fat guys and Filipinos is rare, indeed. Nevertheless, opportunities are out there, if you look carefully.

It happened to me three years ago. My love life was a shipwreck, after being dashed upon the breakwater in the sea of “The One Who Got Away.” Emotionally, I was still in survivor mode even though several months had passed since the breakup. New Year’s Eve was drawing near. All I could think about was that I was going to be alone, and my ex no doubt would be having the time of her life at one of the numerous parties she’d be invited to attend.

All week long I obsessed about my approaching loneliness, until by nine o’clock New Year’s Eve I could stand it no more. I was getting out of here!

My golfing buddy, David “Biscuit” Miller, was in the city for a rare holiday engagement in his hometown. I was going to find where he was playing and have a good time, regardless how I truly felt inside.

David is a national award-winning blues singer, and fronts a terrific jazz / funk / blues band that features an eclectic mix of amazing young artists and venerable musicians, some of whom played with renowned bands – like Rick James and Chick Corea – early in their careers. David usually schedules his holiday engagements in Florida or the islands, so this was a rare occasion to have him in town for the wintry New Year’s week.

Several couples from our golf course were heading across town to see David play, but for weeks I had declined their invitations to join. I was more interested in feeling sorry for myself. New Year’s Eve after all is mostly a “couples evening,” and I had been, well . . . decoupled.

I decided that I would call fellow golfer and friend, Ray, to join me. Ray was like me. He didn’t want to intrude on the other couples. Ten years my senior, Ray wasn’t confident anymore driving on snowy roads at night, so opted to stay home.

“Get out of your pajamas, Ray!” I commanded. “I’ll be at your place in 20 minutes.”

Ray is Filipino. He is a Renaissance man, actually. As a retired civil engineer for an international engineering firm, Ray has been stationed in no less than 13 nations. He speaks seven languages fluently. He plays golf, and has taught himself how to play piano, both classical and jazz.

He could retire to any warm clime in the world, but chose Indiana simply because he discovered he could get a tee time in 20 minutes, instead of the customary two weeks required in his adopted California home.

No sooner than Ray and I settled in at the long table reserved for David’s friends that I noticed something unusual on the dance floor. A young professional, maybe just a college student, was spinning and gyrating to the rocking sounds of David’s music. What made this young man distinctive was that he was not only cutting a rug, he was cutting large swaths of it.

This man was huge! Not athletic huge, but lumpy huge. I marveled at his desire to be on the floor at the risk of mockery.

I too was heavy at that age, and even though I wanted to be one of the dancers having fun, I worried that instead of being Gene Kelly I was more likely to dance like Chris Farley. So, did I ever even try?

Fat chance.

A little bit after ringing in the new year, the large man left with no less than the most beautiful woman in the club on his arm. What confidence, I thought!

It was then that my attention turned to Ray. I never knew Ray to be a dancer, but all night long, he accepted offer after offer from lovely women asking him to join him on the dance floor. Ray was terrific. He spun. He twirled. His feet were magic!

Again, I was stunned. I mentioned to Ray on the way home that I never realized he was such a good dancer.

“I didn’t used to be,” Ray admitted. “I used to be awkward and timid. But I decided that I didn’t want to feel that way again, and I took two years of dance lessons.”

I learned something that night: 1) If you love what you’re doing, do it without worrying what others may think of you. The rewards far outweigh the potential of ridicule; 2) When pursuing a passion, be willing to learn from others. Not everything comes naturally to us. We miss out on so much fun believing there is no payoff for hard work.

Seems like two valuable lessons entering the new year! Happy New Year!

John O. Marlowe is an award-winning columnist for Sagamore News Media